We are really excited to work with aemi’s Artist in Focus Lynne Sachs to deliver a workshop as part of CIFF 2021. This in-person workshop in Cork will focus on the interplay between poetry and cinema. Based in New York, Lynne Sachs is an award winning filmmaker whose work bridges personal experience and political concerns through her singular approach to filmmaking. Lynne uses both analogue and digital mediums, weaving together text, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design.
‘Day Residue: A Film-Making Workshop on the Every Day’ is open to both emerging and established artists interested in film and writing. The workshop is an excellent opportunity for film artists to deeply consider creative approaches to writing and film, both in relation to their own practices and within wider contexts.
Day Residue: A Film-Making Workshop on the Every Day
Lynne Sachs: According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams, our day residue is composed of the memory traces left by the events of our waking state. In this workshop, we explore the ways in which fragments of our daily lives can become material in writing for a personal film. While many people in the film industry rely upon a chronological process that begins with the development phase and ends with post-production, our Day Residue workshop will build on an entirely different creative paradigm that encourages artists to embraces the nuances, surprises and challenges of their daily lives as a foundation for a diaristic practice.
The day will be structured by two sessions: in addition to introducing her practice and collectively watching Lynne’s programme of short films curated by aemi for CIFF (see film info below), Lynne will also lead a session on writing and film / writing for film, and the possible interplays between the two – extending to the role of poetry.
In-person screening programme within the workshop:
Lynne Sachs, Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor, 2018, USA, 8 min From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three artists who embraced the moving image throughout their lives.
Lynne Sachs, Still Life With Women And Four Objects, 1986, USA, 4 minA portrait that falls somewhere between a painting and a poem, a look at a woman’s daily routines and thoughts via an exploration of her as a ‘character’.
Lynne Sachs, Drawn and Quartered, 1986, USA, 4 minOptically printed images of a man and a woman fragmented by a film frame that is divided into four distinct sections.
Lynne Sachs, The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts, 1991, USA, 29 min A girl’s difficult coming-of-age rituals are recast into a potent web for affirmation and growth.
Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer, Girl is Presence, 2020, USA, 5 min Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, a ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.
Lynne Sachs and Moira Sweeney, Longings, 2021, USA/ Ireland, 90 seconds A collaboration exploring the resonances and ruptures between image and language.
Lynne Sachs, Drift and Bough, 2014, USA, 6 minLynne Sachs spends a winter morning in Central Park shooting film in the snow. Holding her Super 8mm camera, she takes note of graphic explosions of dark and light and an occasional skyscraper.
Lynne Sachs, Starfish Aorta Colossus, 2014, USA, 4 min Poetry watches film. Film reads poetry. Paolo Javier’s text is a catalyst for digital sculpting of an 8mm Kodachrome canvas.
Lynne Sachs, Maya at 24, 2021, USA, 4 minLynne Sachs films her daughter Maya at 6, 16 and 24.
Lynne Sachs with and for Barbara Hammer, A Month of Single Frames, 2019, USA, 14 min In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had an artist residency in a shack without running water or electricity. She shot film and kept a journal. In 2018 Hammer, facing her own imminent death, gave her material to Lynne and invited her to make a film.
This is a free workshop, however as numbers are limited, prior booking is essential.
Please email Emer at firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to secure a place.
Lynne Sachs (Memphis, Tennessee, 1961) is a filmmaker and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work explores the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together text, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Strongly committed to a feminist dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with every new project. Her moving image work ranges from short experimental films, to essay films to hybrid live performances. Lynne has made 37 films, including features and shorts, which have screened, won awards or been included in retrospectives at New York Film Festival, Museum of Modern Art, Sundance, Oberhausen, Viennale, Sheffield Doc/Fest, BAFICI, RIDM Montréal, Vancouver Film Festival, Doclisboa, Havana IFF, and China Women’s Film Festival. In 2014, she received the Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts.
I will be heading to Cork International Film Festival in Ireland to present “Film About a Father Who” with 10 short films as part of their AEMI artist focus on my work. Honored to share four collaborative film poems: “Longings” made with filmmaker Moira Sweeney (who will be there with us!); “A Month of Single Frames” made with Barbara Hammer; “Girl is Presence” made with Anne Lesley Selcer; and, “Starfish Aorta Colossus” made with Paolo Javier.
Making work since the 1980s Lynne Sachs’ films have incorporated a cross-pollination of forms that extend to the essay film, documentary, collage, performance, and poetry. Deeply reflexive, Sachs’ films to date have outlined a rich interplay between the personal and the socio-political. aemi is delighted to present this overview of selected short works by Lynne Sachs at Cork International Film Festival, many of which are screening in Ireland for the first time.
In addition to this shorts programme Lynne will also be in attendance at the festival for the Irish premiere of her celebrated feature Film About a Father Who.
CAROLEE, BARBARA & GUNVOR Lynne Sachs From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three artists who embraced the moving image throughout their lives.
STILL LIFE WITH WOMEN AND FOUR OBJECTS Lynne Sachs A portrait that falls somewhere between a painting and a poem, a look at a woman’s daily routines and thoughts via an exploration of her as a ‘character’.
DRAWN AND QUARTERED Lynne Sachs Optically printed images of a man and a woman fragmented by a film frame that is divided into four distinct sections.
THE HOUSE OF SCIENCE: A MUSEUM OF FALSE FACTS Lynne Sachs A girl’s difficult coming-of-age rituals are recast into a potent web for affirmation and growth.
GIRL IS PRESENCE Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, a ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.
LONGINGS Lynne Sachs and Moira Sweeney A collaboration exploring the resonances and ruptures between image and language.
DRIFT AND BOUGH Lynne Sachs Lynne Sachs spends a winter morning in Central Park shooting film in the snow. Holding her Super 8mm camera, she takes note of graphic explosions of dark and light and an occasional skyscraper.
STARFISH AORTA COLOSSUS Lynne Sachs Poetry watches film. Film reads poetry. Paolo Javier’s text is a catalyst for digital sculpting of an 8mm Kodachrome canvas.
MAYA AT 24 Lynne Sachs Lynne Sachs films her daughter Maya at 6, 16 and 24.
A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES Lynne Sachs with and for Barbara Hammer In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had an artist residency in a shack without running water or electricity. She shot film and kept a journal. In 2018 Hammer, facing her own imminent death, gave her material to Lynne and invited her to make a film.
The Irish premiere of Lynne Sachs’ celebrated feature Film About a Father Who screens here alongside the world premiere of Myrid Carten’s short film Sorrow had a baby. Both artists will be in attendance for a discussion of their work following the screening.
Both Film About a Father Who and Sorrow had a baby deal, in very different ways, with familial legacy incorporating personal archives and pushing against the traditional boundaries of documentary practice. Myrid Carten’s film Sorrow had a baby is also the first film produced through aemi’s annual film commissioning programme, supported by Arts Council of Ireland.
Myrid Carten, Sorrow had a baby,2021, Ireland, 16 minutesaemi Film Commission 2021
‘I absorbed the women in my life as I would chloroform on a cloth laid against my face.’ – Vivan Gornick
Sorrow had a baby explores the mother-daughter relationship through multiple lenses: memory, beauty, inheritance. Who writes the stories in a family? Who can change them?
Lynne Sachs, Film About a Father Who, 2020, USA, 74 minutesOver a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father Who is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.
Featuring seven short films and a new introduction by the filmmaker
Over a period of thirty-five years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16 mm film, videotape, and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father Who is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. Like a cubist rendering of a face, Sachs’s cinematic exploration of her father offers multiple, sometimes contradictory, views of a seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately shrouded in mystery. With this meditation on fatherhood and masculinity, Sachs allows herself and her audience to see beneath the surface of the skin, beyond the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, she discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.
This exclusive streaming premiere is accompanied by a selection of experimental short films by Sachs, many of which also reflect her probing exploration of family relationships
Which Way Is East, 1994
The Last Happy Day, 2009
Wind in Our Hair, 2010
The Washing Society, 2018
Girl Is Presence, 2020
E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo, 2021
Maya at 24, 2021
Featured in the following collections: women directors, shorts collections, exclusive streaming
Selected clips from original Criterion Channel interview with Lynne Sachs by Tara Young:
Criterion Channel adds “Film About a Father Who” Director’s Commentary
Wednesday, Oct.20, 7:30PM- online Runtime: 55 mins
notes from the kingdom of the sick – Felicity Palma Self Portrait with Bag – Dianna Barrie Monsieur Jean-Claude – Guillaume Vallée Maya at 24 – Lynne Sachs Tri and Khanh – Daphne Xu 婦人 (Fujin) – Rachel Makana’aloha O Kauikeolani Nakawatase Two Sons and a River of Blood – Amber Bemak & Angelo Madsen Minax
Post-screening Q&A with Filmmakers & Sarah Bliss
Revolutions per Minute festival (RPM Fest) is dedicated to short-form poetic, personal, experimental film, video and audiovisual performance.
Since the 1980s, Lynne Sachs has created cinematic works that defy genre through the use of hybrid forms and collaboration, incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, documentary and poetry. Her films explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. With each project, she investigates the implicit connection between the body, the camera, and the materiality of film itself.
After comprehensive career retrospectives at Sheffield Documentary festival in 2020 and the Museum of the Moving Image in New York this year, her latest feature ‘Film about a Father Who’ is being screened on the Criterion Channel along with seven other short films. Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr. a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. ‘Film About a Father Who’ is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.
We chat about ‘Film About a Father Who’, her approach to experimental documentary making and living and working in San Francisco in 80’s
You can stream 8 of Lynne’s films including FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO on the Criterion Channel here.
“Everything that surrounds us becomes part of us, it seeps into us with every experience of the flesh and of life and, like the web of a great Spider, binds us subtly to what is near, ensnares us in a fragile cradle of slow death, where we lie rocking in the wind.”
People and places in San Francisco.
Lynne worked with the Vietnamese filmmaker, writer and composer Trinh T. Minh-ha
And remember that you can support Into the Mothlight on Patreon here.
About Into the Mothlight Podcast
Experimental film and installation artist Jason Moyes lives and works in rural Scotland and has been exploring the moving image since 2007. His work has been shown in the UK, North America, Europe and Asia. He is a founding member of the Moving Image Makers Collective.
Authors who have made their way looking inward, achieving a work where the constant regression to aesthetic searches, thematic investigations and particular narratives, have a point at which the gaze gravitates, infects and expands.
In this edition, we are happy to share in Mirada Epicentro the work of Lynne Sachs, Bruno Varela and Ecuador de Territory, a program made up of the authors Alberto Muenala, Eriberto Gualinga and Sani Montahuano.
A Month of Single Frames 2020 – U.S.A – 14’ In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had a one-month artist residency in the C Scape Duneshack which is run by the Provincetown Community Compact in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The shack had no running water or electricity. While there, she shot 16mm film with her Beaulieu camera, recorded sounds with her cassette recorder and kept a journal.
In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her Duneshack images, sounds and writing to filmmaker Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material.
Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor 2018 – U.S.A – 8’ From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three multi-faceted artists who have embraced the moving image throughout their lives. From Carolee’s 18th Century house in the woods of Upstate New York to Barbara’s West Village studio to Gunvor’s childhood village in Sweden, Lynne shoots film with each woman in the place where she finds grounding and spark.
E•pis•to•lar•y: letter to Jean Vigo 2021 – U.S.A / España – 5’ In a cinema letter to French director Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs ponders the delicate resonances of his 1933 classic “Zero for Conduct” in which a group of school boys wages an anarchist rebellion against their authoritarian teachers. Thinking about the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the United States Capitol by thousands of right-wing activists, Sachs wonders how innocent play or calculated protest can turn so quickly into chaos and violence.
Drawn and Quartered 1987 – U.S.A – 4’ Optically printed images of a man and a woman are fragmented by a film frame that is divided into four distinct sections. An experiment in form/content relationships that are peculiar to the medium, 1987
Film About a Father Who 2020 – U.S.A – 74’ Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.
Following the Object to its Logical Beginning 1987 – U.S.A – 9’ Like an animal in one of Eadweard Muybridge’s scientific photo experiments, five undramatic moments in a man’s life are observed by a woman. A study in visual obsession and a twist on the notion of the “gaze”.
Maya at 24 2021 – U.S.A – 4’ Lynne Sachs films her daughter Maya in 16mm black and white film, at ages 6, 16 and 24. At each iteration, Maya runs around her mother, in a circle – clockwise – as if propelling herself in the same direction as time, forward. Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.
Photograph on Wind 2001 – U.S.A – 4’ My daughter’s name is Maya. I’ve been told that the word maya means illusion in Hindu philosophy. As I watch her growing up, spinning like a top around me, I realize that her childhood is not something I can grasp but rather – like the wind – something I feel tenderly brushing across my cheek.
Same Stream Twice 2012 – U.S.A – 4’ In 2001, I photographed her at six years old, spinning like a top around me. Even then, I realized that her childhood was not something I could grasp but rather – like the wind – something I could feel tenderly brushing across my cheek.
Still Life with Woman and Four Objects 1986 – U.S.A – 4’ A film portrait that falls somewhere between a painting and a prose poem, a look at a woman’s daily routines and thoughts via an exploration of her as a “character”. By interweaving threads of history and fiction, the film is also a tribute to a real woman – Emma Goldman, 1986 .
The house of science: a museum of false facts 1991 – U.S.A – 30’ Offering a new feminized film form, this piece explores both art and science’s representation of women, combining home movies, personal remembrances, staged scenes and found footage into an intricate visual and aural college. A girl’s sometimes difficult coming of age rituals are recast into a potent web for affirmation and growth.
Viva and Felix Growing Up 2015 – U.S.A – 10’ Capturing fragments of the first three years of her twin niece’s and nephew’s lives with their two dads (her brother Ira Sachs and his husband Boris Torres) and their mom (Kirsten Johnson), Sachs affectionately surveys the construction of family.
Which way is east Lynne Sachs / Dana Sachs 1994 – U.S.A – 33’ When two American sisters travel north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, conversations with Vietnamese strangers and friends reveal to them the flip side of a shared history. Lynne and Dana Sachs’ travel diary of their trip to Vietnam is a collection of tourism, city life, culture clash, and historic inquiry that’s put together with the warmth of a quilt. “Which Way Is East” starts as a road trip and flowers into a political discourse. It combines Vietnamese parables, history and memories of the people the sisters met, as well as their own childhood memories of the war on TV. To Americans for whom “Vietnam” ended in 1975, “Which Way Is East” is a reminder that Vietnam is a country, not a war. The film has a combination of qualities: compassion, acute observational skills, an understanding of history’s scope, and a critical ability to discern what’s missing from the textbooks and TV news. (from The Independent Film and Video Monthly, Susan Gerhard)
Program in Spanish
Autoras y autores que han labrado su camino mirando hacia dentro, logrando una obra donde la regresión constante a búsquedas estéticas, investigaciones temáticas y narrativas particulares, disponen un punto en el cual la mirada gravita, se contagia y se expande.
En esta edición, nos alegramos compartir en Mirada Epicentro la obra de Lynne Sachs, Bruno Varela y Ecuador de territorio, un programa conformado por los autores Alberto Muenala, Eriberto Gualinga y Sani Montahuano.
A Month of Single Frames 2020 – U.S.A – 14’ En 1998, la cineasta Barbara Hammer tuvo una residencia artística de un mes en Cape Cod, Massachusetts. La choza no tenía agua corriente ni electricidad. Mientras estuvo allí, filmó una película de 16 mm, grabó sonidos y llevó un diario. En 2018, Barbara comenzó su propio proceso de muerte revisando su archivo personal. Ella le dio todas sus imágenes, sonidos y escritura de la residencia a la cineasta Lynne Sachs y la invitó a hacer una película.
Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor 2018 – U.S.A – 8’ De 2015 a 2017, Lynne visitó a Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer y Gunvor Nelson, tres artistas multifacéticos que han abrazado la imagen en movimiento a lo largo de sus vidas. Desde la casa del siglo XVIII de Carolee en los bosques del norte del estado de Nueva York hasta el estudio de Barbara en West Village y el pueblo de la infancia de Gunvor en Suecia, Lynne graba una película con cada mujer en el lugar donde encuentra la base y la chispa.
E•pis•to•lar•y: letter to Jean Vigo 2021 – U.S.A / España – 5’ En una epistolar fílmica dirigida al director francés Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs reflexiona sobre su clásico de 1933 “Zero for Conduct”, en el que los escolares libran una rebelión anarquista contra sus maestros autoritarios. Al pensar en el asalto del 6 de enero de 2021 al Capitolio de los EE. UU. Por parte de activistas de derecha, Sachs se pregunta cómo un juego inocente o una protesta calculada pueden convertirse tan rápidamente en caos y violencia.
Drawn and Quartered 1987 – U.S.A – 4’ Imágenes impresas ópticamente de un hombre y una mujer fragmentadas por un fotograma de película que se divide en cuatro secciones distintas. Un experimento en las relaciones forma / contenido que son peculiares del medio, 1987.
Film About a Father Who 2020 – U.S.A – 74’ Desde 1984 al 2019, Lynne Sachs filmó a su padre, un animado e innovador hombre de negocios. Este documental es el intento de la cineasta por entender las redes que conectan a una niña con su padre y a una mujer con sus hermanos. Con un guiño a las representaciones cubistas de un rostro, la exploración de Sachas ofrece visiones simultáneas y a veces contradictorias de un hombre aparentemente incognocible que públicamente se ubica de forma desinhibida en el centro del encueadre, pero en lo privado se refugia en secretos.
Following the Object to its Logical Beginning 1987 – U.S.A – 9’ Como un animal en uno de los experimentos fotográficos científicos de Eadweard Muybridge, una mujer observa cinco momentos poco dramáticos en la vida de un hombre. Un estudio sobre la obsesión visual y un giro en la noción de “mirada”.
Maya at 24 2021 – U.S.A – 4’ Conscientes del extraño paisaje temporal simultáneo que solo el cine puede transmitir, vemos a Maya en movimiento en cada época distinta.
Photograph on Wind 2001 – U.S.A – 4’ El nombre de mi hija es Maya. Me han dicho que la palabra maya significa ilusión en la filosofía hindú. Mientras la veo crecer, girando como una peonza a mi alrededor, me doy cuenta de que su infancia no es algo que pueda comprender, sino más bien, como el viento, algo que siento acariciar con ternura mi mejilla.
Same Stream Twice 2012 – U.S.A – 4’ En 2001, la fotografié a los seis años, girando como una peonza a mi alrededor. Incluso entonces, me di cuenta de que su infancia no era algo que pudiera comprender, sino más bien, como el viento, algo que podía sentir con ternura rozando mi mejilla.
Still Life with Woman and Four Objects 1986 – U.S.A – 4’ Un retrato cinematográfico que se sitúa entre una pintura y un poema en prosa, una mirada a las rutinas y pensamientos diarios de una mujer a través de una exploración de ella como un “personaje”. Al entrelazar hilos de historia y ficción, la película también es un homenaje a una mujer real: Emma Goldman, 1986.
The house of science: a museum of false facts 1991 – U.S.A – 30’ Ofreciendo una nueva forma de película feminizada, esta pieza explora la representación de las mujeres tanto en el arte como en la ciencia, combinando películas caseras, recuerdos personales, escenas escénicas y metraje encontrado en una intrincada universidad visual y auditiva. Los rituales de mayoría de edad a veces difíciles de una niña se reconvierten en una potente red de afirmación y crecimiento.
Viva and Felix Growing Up 2015 – U.S.A – 10’ Durante los primeros tres años de la vida de mi sobrino y mi sobrina gemela, usé mi cámara Bolex de 16 mm para filmarlos mientras crecían en la ciudad de Nueva York con sus dos papás (mi hermano Ira Sachs y su esposo Boris Torres) y su mamá (Kirsten Johnson). . La película termina con un abrazo por el Día del Orgullo Gay.
Which way is east Lynne Sachs / Dana Sachs 1994 – U.S.A – 33’ Cuando dos hermanas estadounidenses viajan al norte desde la ciudad de Ho Chi Minh a Hanoi, las conversaciones con desconocidos y amigos vietnamitas les revelan la otra cara de una historia compartida.
Each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit streaming platforms in the United States. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.
Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond) It is hard to think of a recent horror film––or a film of any genre, really––in which the main character is tasked with a job as original and ingenious as Enid Baines, the protagonist of Prano Bailey-Bond’s riveting Censor. She is, yes, the titular censor. It is 1980s England, the time of “video nasties” that drew parental consternation and tabloid outrage. These were the low-budget, ultra-violent VHS cassettes that earned their own category in the collective consciousness. Not all were UK productions––I Spit On Your Grave and Abel Ferrara’s Driller Killer made the list. In Censor, however, the nasties are homegrown, in more ways than one. Chris S. (full review) Where to Stream: Hulu
Copshop (Joe Carnahan) It’d be hard to argue Joe Carnahan isn’t permanently stuck in 1997. Operating well past the point where dozens upon dozens of Tarantino knockoffs were inescapable on video store shelves and in shoebox auditoriums across America, he seems, if anything, intent on morphing the ’90s aesthetic into a new form of classicism for the 21st century. As the kind of guy who still finds slow-motion gunfights cool a full three decades after Hollywood caught wind of Hard Boiled, it’s nice he at least believes in a tangible, quasi-human cinema. – Ethan V. (full review) Where to Stream: VOD
Film About a Father Who and More Films by Lynne Sachs Along with her new documentary Film About a Father Who, The Criterion Channel is featuring seven shorts from director Lynne Sachs, including Which Way Is East (1994), The Last Happy Day (2009), Wind in Our Hair (2010), The Washing Society (2018), Girl Is Presence (2020), E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo (2021), and Maya at 24 (2021). Jared Mobarak said in his review of her latest feature, “While director Lynne Sachs admits her latest documentary Film About a Father Who could be superficially construed as a portrait (the title alludes to and the content revolves around her father Ira), she labels it a reckoning instead. With thirty-five years of footage shot across varied formats and devices to cull through and piece together, the result becomes less about providing a clear picture of who this man is and more about understanding the cost of his actions. Whether it began that way or not, however, it surely didn’t take long to realize how deep a drop the rabbit hole of his life would prove. Sachs jumped in to discover truths surrounding her childhood only to fall through numerous false bottoms that revealed truths she couldn’t even imagine.” Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky) In 2018, Victor Kossakovsky set out to shoot Aquarela, a survey-symphony that took the Russian documentarian around the world to capture glaciers, waterfalls, frozen lakes, oceans, and storms. Water, art-speak waffle as it may sound, served as Aquarela’s only protagonist: in that hyper-high-definition blue canvas, human faces seldom popped up, and voices were seldom heard, as Kossakovsky’s focus centered squarely on his liquid star alone. A mystifying follow-up working again to question and depart from an anthropocentric perspective, here comes Gunda, a black-and-white, dialogue-free documentary chronicling a few months in the lives of the animals stranded in a Norwegian farm. – Leonardo G. (full review)Where to Stream: Hulu
I’m Your Man (Maria Schrader) Falling in love with a robot isn’t good news, as Her and Blade Runner (both 2019 and 2049) tell us. In I’m Your Man, unspooling in competition at Berlin, a forty-something museum director (Maren Eggert) is justifiably nervous—she’s in a film named after a Leonard Cohen track, which is only asking for trouble—when asked to try out a new romantic partner. That’s because this is a “humanoid robot,” Tom, algorithmically aligned to her romantic preferences and played by dashing English actor Dan Stevens in a performance in which he impressively speaks fluent German. – Ed F. (full review) Where to Stream: VOD
Needle in a Timestack (John Ridley) For a movie about a fated love (Leslie Odom Jr.’s Nick and Cynthia Erivo’s Janine) being undermined by a jealous ex (Orlando Bloom’s Tommy), I didn’t expect to witness a scene towards the start where the latter philosophically (and selfishly) attempts to legitimize his sabotage by explaining how every love is, by definition, another’s missed opportunity. He points out a random woman in the bar and tells Nick that whomever she falls for will be the lucky one of millions, setting off a chain reaction that diverts all the other men and women destined to have crossed her path as suitable partners somewhere else instead. The sentiment is intriguing and full of possibilities well outside the scope of what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill, time travel romance. – Jared M. (full review) Where to Stream: VOD
Rat Film (Theo Anthony) It’s not often that a documentary with such a clear focus surprises and unnerves you. Rat Film, directed by Theo Anthony, finds its narrative in the parallel between rat-control efforts in Baltimore and the redlining that has kept certain neighborhoods in the city locked in poverty and crime. With a passionate attention to historical detail and nuance that is belied by the robotic narration of Maureen Jones, the film seduces the audience into following its train of thought through moments and ideas both grotesque and harrowing. Some of the tangents and paths of thought that Rat Film travels are surreal to the point of abstraction, but at the end of it all your view of urban development and its impact on human lives will have been fundamentally altered for the better. – Brian R. Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes) If you told people in 1967 that Andy Warhol’s house band just released one of the most revered rock albums of all-time, they would ask what they’re called, and when you told them they would laugh. As far as the public was concerned, there were a hundred acts capable of that historical success in the ‘60s, and none were called the Velvet Underground (or Nico). To a certain extent they would be right. It would be another decade before the banana-adorned The Velvet Underground & Nico would have its pop cultural comeuppance and over half a century before the glam avant-garde group would receive definitive documentary treatment by one of the best living filmmakers. But as history and said doc have proven, we would have the last laugh in that exchange. – Luke H. (full review) Where to Stream: Apple TV+
Directors Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler’s new documentary “Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America” shows why the GOP should be stopped from promoting educational cover-ups of America’s shameful racist history. ACLU attorney Jeffery Robinson’s titular Juneteenth 2018 talk exposes the unfortunately deep roots racism has in American society…and the obligations people of conscience have to help this nation leave its racist legacy behind. Particularly disturbing will be the hidden racist history of some iconic American places.
Experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs’ newest short “Maya at 24” can be called simultaneously intimate and enigmatic. Certainly, the film evokes feelings similar to watching Michael Apted’s beloved “Up” series. Yet Sachs’ short film maintains some emotional remove from its central subject.
The titular Maya happens to be Sachs’ daughter Maya Street-Sachs. The film captures its subject at three distinct ages: 6, 16, and 24. In this dialogue-free film, the girl’s/young woman’s three ages get linked via 16mm film footage capturing Maya’s running around her mother clockwise.
Yet “Maya At 24” offers more than an obvious visual metaphor of time passing for her film subject. A silhouette of an older Maya filled out by footage of a running Maya at 6 provides a nice metaphor for the spiritual continuity between child and older person.
Without the medium of words, the viewer must rely on the facial expressions Maya displays at each age to have emotional glimpses of the person depicted. Yet it could be reasonably argued that the visual results prove too enigmatic to create a realistic emotional picture of its subject. The single-mindedness on the face of age 6 Maya treats the apparent frivolity of running in a circle as something still worth giving her all for. The face of age 16 Maya uses her younger self’s single-mindedness as a mask for safely regarding the world. There’s her awareness of being the object of unseen viewers’ gazes, but that awareness of gaze and viewers’ judgment is protected by her visible expressionlessness.
By age 24, Maya’s face displays an amused lack of self-consciousness regarding the camera’s gaze. Rather than being intimidated by the unblinking eye of the camera lens (and by implication her mother, although that might be projection), the filmmaker’s daughter shows in her face a combination of relaxation and an awareness of her ability to control how much she will reveal of herself before the camera.
The drawn animated microscopic images allude to the fact that the age 24 footage was shot in the midst of coronavirus lockdown. Yet Maya’s face displays neither fear of COVID-19 nor grief at seeing friends or loved ones succumb to the disease. The run that Maya does at this age would, in this context, be a metaphorical act of defiance at both fear of contracting the disease or even the idea that COVID-19 requires life to completely come to a halt.
“Maya At 24” can ultimately be called a celebration of life…but without the sticky sentiment usually associated with that well-worn phrase.
LIfe in a drug cartel-dominated area has provided grist for plenty of films and television series. But Teodora Ana Mihai’s drama “La Civil” delivers something different. It doesn’t go for glorifying either action-movie vengeance or the power of the drug cartels. Instead, it slowly sucks the viewer into a moral quandry whose resolution feels as preordained as the bleakest Greek tragedy.
In an unnamed town in Northern Mexico, Cielo (Arcelia Ramirez) lives a passable existence with her teenage daughter Laura. The mother’s life gets thrown into disarray when the smug teenage thug El Puma informs her that Laura’s being held for ransom. Despite Cielo enlisting the grudging help of her estranged husband Gustavo, Laura is not returned. When the usual government outlets prove unable to help the determined mother, she starts conducting her own search for her missing daughter. But what happens to Cielo when she begins accepting more morally dubious tactics to obtain her answers?
In a nice bit of irony, Cielo (Spanish for “sky”) lives an incredibly constricted life at the film’s start. Her estranged bullying husband Gustavo has her so browbeaten that she just goes along with whatever he says. She even declines to get the financial support she deserves from Gustavo despite his leaving her and Laura for the younger and hotter Rosy. The intimidating power of the local drug cartels also limits Cielo’s actions. But until Laura’s disappearance, the mother is unaware of the shape of that social constriction on her and other civilians in the town.
One of the great ironies teased out by Habacuc Antonio de Rosario’s script is seeing how Cielo’s growing awareness of the grip of the local drug cartels liberates her from passivity to more actively participating in her life. She even goes from fearing Gustavo to finding him a loudmouthed afterthought. However, her increased self-confidence doesn’t translate to adopting Gustavo’s role of humiliating those weaker than himself.
Two critical moments provide key changes to the dynamic between Cielo and Gustavo. One is the second ransom sequence. Cielo wants proof of life from El Puma before handing over a peso; Gustavo doesn’t pause for a second to give up the money. The other is the differing attitudes of Laura’s parents as the days pass. Gustavo is probably right that Laura is dead at this point. But that suspicion becomes an excuse for him to emotionally sweep things under the rug. Cielo by contrast is driven to get as definitive an answer as she can regarding Laura’s fate.
That drive is not aided by a society that seems incapable of dealing with the local narco scourge. The cops seem to engage in triage on what narco-related crimes they will investigate. The civilian status quo involves either giving the narcos what they want or otherwise staying off their radar. The military patrols resemble security theater exercises rather than an actual deterrent presence.
Mihai’s film embraces the ambivalence of Cielo’s accepting Lieutenant Lamarque’s extra-judicial methods of combating the narcos. Her gathering intelligence on Commandante Inez’ gang may have been intended to spur official action. But it’s not clear the cops would have been willing to act off the data Cielo gathered. Certainly Cielo’s neighbors are notably absent when some narcos pay her a violent evening visit. At least Lieutenant Lamarque proves willing to act on the desperate mother’s accumulated information.
Yet being a witness to beatings and shootouts that Lieutenant Lamarque and his troops engage in raises questions about Cielo’s moral complicity for the soldiers’ actions. On one hand, the current status quo of basically unchecked criminality is definitely undesirable. On the other hand, having the likes of Lieutenant Lamarque exercise unchecked power against the cartels can’t be called an ultimately necessary societal good.
“La Civil”’s satisfying refusal to offer neat solutions or resolutions will of course spark viewer debate. That approach may explain why the film garnered a Courage Prize at the recent Cannes Film Festival. Yet one could also wish for a more riveting treatment than what is presented here.
Why has it taken over 55 years to finally get a documentary feature film on The Velvet Underground? Even though the legendary avant-garde rock band existed for five years and left a small handful of recordings, they would influence such legends as David Bowie and Jonathan Richman. Yet taking the bog standard documentary filmmaking approach of talking heads, archival clips, and period media presented straight would be a disservice to the band’s very unconventional legacy.
On the other hand, it could also be argued that making a film about the Velvet Underground would have been commercial suicide. The band’s musical output never became gold or even multi-platinum sellers. Their music celebrated drug culture in a way that would have ensured whoever broadcast any such film could count on lots of hairy eyeballs from sponsors of various stripes. Props should be offered to David Blackman of Universal Music Group for starting the rolling of this cinematic ball.
Congratulations are thus in order for filmmaker Todd Haynes for taking the plunge and making the first ever documentary about Andy Warhol’s Factory house band “The Velvet Underground.” Haynes’ well-made feature documentary debut strikes the right balance between sharing the basic facts about the band’s history and telling their story in a visually inventive manner. Then again, this is the director who used Barbie dolls in a Karen Carpenter biography (“Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”) and did a picture about Bob Dylan which had Cate Blanchett as one version of the famed singer/songwriter (“I’m Not There”).
Viewers who have never heard of The Velvet Underground will be introduced to the band’s significant moments ranging from Lou Reed and John Cale discovering a mutual love of rock music and sonic experimentation to the band’s unceremonious break-up at Max’s Kansas City. Yes, later band addition Doug Yule gets some short shrift in Haynes’ film. But it can be argued that Yule’s later attempts to revive the band couldn’t even lick the soles of “Venus In Furs”’ boots.
Haynes’ film stands out because he doesn’t treat his subject as things to be scrutinized in isolation under a microscope. Instead, he creates a fascinating cinematic terrarium which shows the band’s significance by depicting both the cultural milieus it reacted against and the avant garde world it epitomized. Footage of Levittown and other icons of late 1950s-early 1960s consumerist safety and conformity deliver a good sense of the mind-numbing banality of that era’s mainstream culture. A moment where the screen is split into a dozen tiny images captures a sense of the creative ferment that the Velvet Underground became a part of.
“The Velvet Underground” constantly surprises with its visual storytelling. Warhol’s cinematic studies of the band’s members get juxtaposed with interviews filling in intriguing personal details such as Reed’s sister commenting on her brother’s mental health. Samples of an Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia event suggest how ahead of its time Warhol’s show turned out to be. Valerie Solanas’ attempted murder of Warhol is presented in a way that conveys what happened without sliding into melodrama.
And of course the Velvet Underground songs heard on the soundtrack demonstrate their durability with both their lyrics and the sounds used to bring them to life. “Heroin” and “Waiting For The Man” suggest what might have happened if Jean Genet had turned to rock music rather than the stage. The Mamas and the Papas’ “Monday Monday” may have been a bigger popular hit than anything Lou Reed and crew put out. But it’s Reed et al.’s more experimental songs that still retain the energy of Now.
Haynes shows how the strengths of the band also contained the seeds of its eventual destruction. Reed may have shared Cale’s interest in sonic experimentation, but he ultimately wanted to be a successful rock star. Nico brought iconic beauty and singing talent to the band, but she had little interest in making her work with the group a long term gig. Warhol did a great job guiding The Velvet Underground into the rock world, but his presence overshadowed popular attention that might have gone to Reed.
Of the main members of the Velvet Underground seen on screen. Yule comes off the most colorless thanks to a hunger for rock stardom not matched by commensurate talent. Cale’s able to look back on his period with the band without rancor, even given the shameful way he was booted from the group. Drummer Moe Tucker obviously brought a quietly grounded presence to the Velvet Underground.
It is, of course, Reed who displays the most emotionally complex personality. He turned his encounters with the seamier side of life aka the wild side into the stuff of unforgettable poetry. His determination to be the Hubert Selby/William Burroughs of the rock world is definitely admirable. However, Haynes makes clear that Reed’s ambition would ultimately undermine the Velvet Underground’s long term existence. “The Velvet Underground” doesn’t quite show that Reed would never achieve his dream of rock superstardom.
Reed’s failure, though, might be attributed to the shortcomings of the period’s audiences. Then as now, rock superstardom and reverence for distinct individual artistic rock voices frequently don’t intersect. Tours by the Velvet Underground outside New York led to a standing joke among the band members that a good touring show was one where only half the audience walked out.
Rock celebrity appearances in Haynes’ film are a mixed bag. Jonathan Richman justifiably treats the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison as a mentor, but his admiration ultimately comes off a little too fanboyish. Rock tastemaker Danny Fields brings a nice balance of admiration and innocence. But late Bay Area music impresario Bill Graham has the best moment with his pre-show encouragement to the Velvet Underground of “I hope you guys f**king bomb.”
Haynes has performed a valuable cultural public service by making “The Velvet Underground.” Not only has he introduced their music to new audiences, but he shows to older audiences that the brevity of the band’s existence is outweighed by the fact that they were even able to come together at all. If the viewer watching Haynes’ documentary streaming on Apple TV Plus doesn’t skip over the end credits, they will be treated to a performance of a classic Velvet Underground song that’s only hinted at earlier in the film.
(“Maya at 24” screens as part of the “There She Goes Again” shorts block. Both that shorts block and “La Civil” are available for online streaming at mvff.com until October 17, 2021.
“Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America” screens in-theater at 12:00 PM on October 16, 2021 at the Smith Rafael Film Theater (1118 4th Street, San Rafael, CA).
“The Velvet Underground” debuts on Apple TV Plus on October 15, 2021. It also screens in-theater at 12:00 PM on October 17, 2021 at the Smith Rafael Film Theater (1118 4th Street, San Rafael, CA).
Tickets for all the films reviewed are available at mvff.com.)
Distributor Neon has announced its release plans for Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria: Playing only in theaters, Memoria will be “moving from city to city, theater to theater, week by week, playing in front of only one solitary audience at any given time.”
Tilda Swinton and George Mackay will be starring in the next film by Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence). Titled The End, the film has been described as a “a Golden Age musical about the last human family.”
Co-programmed by James Hansen & Eric Souther, Light Matter Festival is a new “moving-image art festival dedicated to experimental film and media arts.” Taking place in Alfred, New York, the festival will be screening films by Simon Liu, Mary Helena Clark, Lynne Sachs, and more.
Sylvester Stallone’s director’s cut of Rocky IV (1985) will be playing in theaters in the United States for one night only on November 11. The new cut includes 40 minutes of never-before-seen footage, and will be available on demand the following day, on the 12th.
A24’s official trailer for Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, which arrives in theaters this December. Simon Rex stars as a washed up former porn star who returns to his Texas hometown. Its delicious poster was illustrated by Steven Chorney and designed by GrandSon. Read Leonardo Goi’s review of the film here
The official trailer for Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, which won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale. Read our review of the film by Ela Bittencourt here.
Zia Anger has directed a new music video for Mitski’s latest single, “Working for the Knife.” With cinematography by Ashley Conner, the video follows Mitski as she performs inside The Egg at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
Ahead of the release of Shin Ultraman, a teaser has been released for Hideaki Anno’s Shin Kamen Rider. The film is a reboot of the 1971 Kamen Rider series, which tells the story of a young motorcyclist who is transformed into a cyborg by a terrorist organization.
“Miami Vice seems to do everything wrong by genre standards, and yet manages to captivate us in a way that few others can.” Bilge Ebiri reappraises Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (which turns 15 this year), from its tender intimacy to its digital video cinematography.
For Reverse Shot, critic Michael Koresky investigates Gaspar Noé’s Vortex, and whether cinema is an apt enough art form for representing the effects of dementia.
In a conversation with Nick Newman for the Film Stage, Kiyoshi Kurosawa discussesWife of a Spy, being a fan of Clint Eastwood as an actor, and the Japanese studio system. Another excellent interview can be found at Asian Movie Pulse, where Kurosawa considers the divide between film and reality, piracy, and the new generation of Japanese filmmakers.
Carol Kane discusses the rerelease of Joan Micklin Silver’s feature debut Hester Street (1975), which starred Kane at the age of 23, and pushing away fame at a young age.
“The emphasis is on diversity and pluralism, not past and present sins. Call it a museum of good intentions.” Manohla Dargis of the New York Timesreflects on the opening of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.
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